The aconite is a classic among garden shrubs. The poisonous plant, which is also said to have a healing effect, adorns partially shaded areas in the garden. How to plant and care for the buttercup.
Profile of aconite:
Scientific name: Aconitum napellus
Plant family: buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)
Other names: monk’s-hood, wolfsbane, helmet flower, monk’s blood
Sowing time: November to March
Planting time: Spring
Flowering period: June to August
Harvest time: highly toxic
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient-rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, single position, group planting, under wood, borders, apothecary garden, cotton garden, flower garden, natural garden, forest garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5
Bee and insect friendly: yes
Plant characteristics and classification of aconite
Plant order, origin and occurrence of aconite
The aconite (Aconitum napellus), also known as monk’s-hood, wolfsbane, helmet flower ormonk’s blood, is an expressive perennial from the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). The aconite occurs in almost all of Central and Northern Europe in higher areas of the low uplands. There the perennial grows primarily on the banks of the stream and in light floodplain forests.
Characteristics of aconite
Aconitum napellus forms clusters and grows upright. Several shoots grow from the bulbous root, which can reach heights of between 120 and 160 centimeters (4 to 5 ft).
The dark green leaves are divided into narrow, rhombic sections and finely slotted.
The violet-blue flowers appear from early June to August. They are in dense clusters and are about 4 to 5 centimeters (1.6 to 2 in) tall. The perianth consists of five tepals, which means that it is not divided into a calyx and crown. The top petal has a striking helmet shape.
Follicles are formed from the petals with multiple seeds.
Aconite – cultivation and care
The aconite thrives best in partially shaded locations. If it is not too dry, it also tolerates sunny places.
Aconitum napellus prefers nutrient-rich and moist soil with good water holding capacity.
So that the aconite can take root well until the first winter, it is best to plant it in spring. Only start planting aconite when you have put on gloves and long-sleeved clothing. Then place the potted young plant with the root ball in a container with water, in order to weed and rake the ground in the meantime. This sequence continues:
- Dig a planting hole with 1.5 times the volume of the root ball
- Put the excavation in the wheelbarrow to mix it with compost and horn shavings
- Stuff the water-soaked perennial, place it in the middle of the pit and plant it with the enriched substrate
Fill the soil to just below the lower pair of leaves and water. A mulch layer of autumn leaves or compost has a beneficial effect on the rapid rooting in the soil.
Aconite grows head-high and remains slim. If you arrange the perennial in a group, a planting distance of 40-60 cm (16 to 24 in) for the regular high growing varieties is recommended. Small hybrids, such as the Little Knight, are placed at a distance of 30-35 cm (12 to 14 in) from the neighboring plant.
A regular water supply is essential if the aconite is to reach the biblical age of 50 years for perennials. Keep the soil constantly moist. Water even after a light summer rain, if the water drops did not reach the root sheath due to the dense flowers and leaves.
Aconite is one of the most heavy feeder perennials. Therefore, fertilize abundantly and regularly. From April to August, add mature compost, bark humus or an alternative organic fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. Ideally, you should also add nettle swill every 4 weeks. In the planter, fertilizer sticks or a commercially available liquid fertilizer provide all the important nutrients for a long-lasting and breathtaking abundance of flowers.
The aconite is happy about occasional addition of horn shavings or compost as fertilizer. In addition, water repeatedly with nettle swill. The removal of withered flowers stimulates a second flowering from August. If the inflorescence become too high and tend to fall apart, support them with a perennial ring or support rod. Cut the flower stems and remaining leaves close to the ground in autumn
The lavishly blooming candles push themselves to be cut as a cut flower for the floor vase. In addition, a cut close to the ground needs to be done in autumn. Wait for the flowers to wither and the leaves to fall. Then put on gloves and protective clothing to cut off the perennial.
An adult perennial grows small roots from its fleshy bulb, which are excellent for propagation. Autumn is a good time to dig up the plant for this purpose. Separate the small bulbs from the main root with a sharp disinfected knife. At the new location, place the parts 2-3 cm (1 in) deep in the moist, nutrient-rich soil. First enrich the soil with compost and horn shavings to promote growth. On the mother plant, dust the cuts with charcoal powder, add compost to the planting hole and plant the perennial again.
You can also propagate the aconite by sowing. Sowing should take place from November to March because the aconite is a cold germ.
Diseases and pests
Diseases are rare. Occasionally, leaf spot diseases or powdery mildew can occur.
In the first winter, the frost hardiness did not fully develop. Therefore, cover the roots of aconite with autumn leaves, straw, coniferous twigs or compost. Buckets are put on a wooden base and given a winter coat made of jute or garden fleece. The substrate is covered with garden peat or sawdust, which also protects against permanent winter wetness. As soon as the temperature rises in the spring, all protective measures are undone so that no rotting occurs as a result of condensation.
Aconite is justifiably one of the most dangerous poisonous plants in Europe. If 2 gram of its roots, seeds, flowers or leaves get into the human organism, this has fatal consequences. It begins with numbness of the tongue and ends with respiratory and cardiac arrest within a few minutes. Unfortunately, the toxin can also be absorbed through the skin, so that you, as a hobby gardener, are at risk of life in all planting and care, provided that no comprehensive safety precautions have been taken. Approach the perennial only with sturdy gloves, long trousers and long-sleeved tops. Do not plant when there are children or pets within reach. Plant remains, such as clippings or flowers, have no place on pasture. Furthermore, it is best not to put it on the compost.
Use in the garden
Because of the height and its upright growth, the monk’s-hood protrudes from the bed. It forms a contrast to bushy plants and make beds less monotonous. It comes into its own particularly well in wood plantings with astilbe and rattle root. By combining them with lower shrubs, the often bare stems of the plant can be hidden. Avoid planting in gardens if you have children or pets.
Use as a medical plant
Due to the extremely high poison content, the aconite must not be used as a normal medicinal herb. Use only makes sense in homeopathic dilution.
From the D4 dilution, the aconite (as Aconitum D4) can be used in the early phase of colds. In many cases, the cold does not really break out.
The aconite in homeopathic preparations can also be helpful for nerve pain, such as lumbago or sciatica.
As there are other useful and not poisonous herbs for the abovementioned symptoms, it is recommended to try them, before you think about using aconite!
Attention! In the event of poisoning with aconite, an emergency doctor must be informed immediately or a hospital consulted! In the waiting time until the emergency doctor arrives, if possible induce vomiting and then give charcoal tablets.
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